Outdoor notes: Bighorn sheep captured in the Panhandle

Outdoor notes: Bighorn sheep captured in the Panhandle
The helicopter crew delivers four ewes for processing. (Nebraskaland/Justin Haag)

CHADRON, Neb. — Bighorn sheep in the Panhandle are sporting some new hardware this week thanks to the work of a helicopter capture crew, wildlife professionals and volunteers.

South Dakota State University joined the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in capturing and processing a total of 48 sheep Monday and Tuesday — 22 in the Wildcat Hills near McGrew and 26 at three locations in the Pine Ridge near Chadron and Crawford.

Wildlife professionals have ramped up monitoring efforts in recent years to combat disease issues with Nebraska’s bighorn sheep, the most notable malady being Mycoplasma pneumonia. In addition to the sheep captured, processed and released, seven chronically ill ewes from the Pine Ridge were taken to South Dakota State University in Brookings for additional study.

The sheep that were released received new tracking collars and ear tags, in addition to undergoing a series of tissue samples and vaccinations. The ewes were not only fitted with new collars and tags, but also with vaginal implant transmitters. The latter devices, which have been used the past two years in the Pine Ridge, will help study lamb mortality.

The sheep were processed by a team of about 50 people, consisting of personnel from the Commission, South Dakota State University, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, the Lincoln Zoo, private veterinarians and the Alliance Animal Clinic. Chadron State College students also joined the effort in the Pine Ridge. Funding and support for the project has come through Pittman-Robertson Federal Aid grants, the Nebraska Big Game Society and local Wild Sheep Foundation chapters.

The helicopter crew has been contracted to stay in the Cornhusker State through the remainder of the week to capture mule deer for a study led by the University of Nebraska. Weather permitting, those captures will take place in the Frenchman deer management unit in southwestern Nebraska and the Pine Ridge unit of the northwest through the weekend. Locals may notice low-level helicopter activity and increased deer movement in those areas.

Nebraska Upland Slam

LINCOLN, Neb. – The inaugural Nebraska Upland Slam gave more than 200 hunters a reason to take advantage of Nebraska’s top-notch mixed-bag hunting opportunities.

The Nebraska Upland Slam, a partnership between the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the Nebraska chapter of Pheasants Forever/Quail Forever, challenged hunters to harvest all four of Nebraska’s primary upland gamebird species, including ring-necked pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, greater prairie-chickens and northern bobwhites.

In all, 140 hunters – ranging in age from 13 to 75 years – completed the Slam, including 121 from Nebraska. The remaining Slams were completed by hunters from nine states.

In the Slam’s first season, 267 hunters harvested at least one species, with a total of 801 submissions recorded. Just over half of the submissions were harvested on public land, and many of those who participated in the Slam harvested at least one species they had never harvested before.

“Nebraska is truly the mixed-bag capital of the region, and the Upland Slam gives hunters another reason to experience the incredible upland bird opportunities that our state has to offer,” said Nebraska Game and Parks Director Jim Douglas.

The Slam helped families create hunting memories and solidified their hunting traditions. One family had three generations of hunters finish the Slam, and several parent-child combinations also succeeded in the challenge.

“These are great examples of a legacy of passion for upland bird hunting being passed down to multiple generations,” said John Laux, Game and Parks’ upland habitat and access program manager.

Hunters who completed the Slam received an official certificate and pin and were entered into a drawing to win prizes. Grand prize winner Ken Loth of Omaha drew a Browning 12-gauge semiautomatic shotgun, Roy Niemoth of Grand Island won a Pheasants Forever print, and Tyler Douglass of Grand Island won 65-gallon Yeti cooler.

The challenge began Sept. 1 with the opener for sharp-tailed grouse and greater prairie-chicken. Pheasant and quail became available when their seasons opened Oct. 27. Seasons for all of the Slam species closed Jan. 31.

Upland hunters looking for a new challenge are urged to participate in the Nebraska Upland Slam, which continues when the 2019 seasons open this fall.

Visit OutdoorNebraska.org/UplandSlam for more information, official rules and entry details.

Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshops scheduled

LINCOLN, Neb. – Prepare for the upcoming hunting season by attending one of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission’s Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshops.

The events are designed for individuals with limited experience and are ideal for those wanting to expand into turkey hunting. Topics will include strategies, equipment, biology and much more to increase a hunter’s confidence and success.

The workshop schedule is:

March 2 – Holdrege, YMCA of the Prairie, 1415 Broadway St., 1-3 p.m.

March 26 – Lincoln, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, 4703 N. 44th St., 6-8:30 p.m.

March 28 – Louisville, Platte River State Park, 14421 346th St., 6-8:30 p.m.

March 28 – Hastings, Lincoln Park Fire Station, 1145 S. Hastings Ave., 6:30-8:30 p.m.

In addition, a turkey calling clinic will be held April 9 at the Outdoor Education Center in Lincoln from 6-8:30 p.m. Participants are encouraged to bring their own calls as instructors will help them get the most turkey out of their calls and discuss the strategies in using them.

Space is limited. Register at OutdoorNebraska.com/Workshops. A registration fee may apply.

Sample wine, cheese, venison at BOW/NWTF event

LINCOLN, Neb. – Women are invited to spend an afternoon sampling wine, cheese and venison at the Vineyards and Venison event March 3 at Ashland.

This event for ages 21 and above is at Cellar 426 Wines and Vines, 1402 Dennis Dean Road, from 2 to 4 p.m. The cost is $25.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman and the National Wild Turkey Federation Women in the Outdoors are hosting the event, which also teaches participants how to make charcuterie boards. Register at nwtf.org/events.

Contact Micaela Rahe at mrahe@nwtf.net or 402-471-2517 for more information.

Cedar View Campground at Lake McConaughy SRA temporarily closed

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Cedar View Campground at Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area will close temporarily to allow construction crews to complete upgrades to campground amenities.

Cedar View Campground, located about 15 miles west of Kingsley Dam on Highway 92 near Otter Creek Bay, is now closed for public use until approximately May 24. Some aspects of the project may not be completed until this fall depending upon site conditions during construction. The upgrades will include all new electrical and water utilities leading to 85 camping sites with 50/30/20 amp pedestals and water availability. Eight existing campsites will be updated to bring them into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), along with renovations to the existing shower facility.

Contact Regional Park Superintendent Colby Johnson at 308-284-8804 or colby.johnson@nebraska.gov for more information.

Rainbow trout stockings scheduled this spring

LINCOLN, Neb. – Catchable-size rainbow trout will be stocked in city ponds, park lakes, and other waters across the state by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission beginning in March.

Trout fishing is a great way to introduce children to fishing because simple and inexpensive equipment may be used. A spinning or spin-cast rod and reel with a hook baited with a worm will work well. Add a split shot a couple of feet above the hook and a bobber a couple of feet above the split shot. Trout also can be caught with spinners, salmon eggs, dough baits and artificial flies.

All trout stocking dates and times are tentative and dependent on appropriate weather conditions.

The Trout Lake (Lake No. 5) at Two Rivers State Recreation Area (SRA) near Waterloo will open for fishing March 9, conditions allowing. It will have been stocked with 9,000 rainbow trout. All trout caught in the lake must be harvested and not released. A daily trout tag must be purchased, in addition to a fishing permit, to fish this lake. Call the park at 402-359-5165 for more information. A park entry permit is required. Check Game and Parks’ Facebook page for updates.

Stocked trout will be approximately 10 inches in length. The following is a tentative stocking schedule, including quantities:

March 13 – Lake Halleck, Papillion, 1,200 trout; Steinhart Park East Pond, Nebraska City, 1,200; Weeping Water Pond, 1,500; Elm Creek, Webster County, 1,000

March 14 – Fremont Lakes SRA No. 2, 5,000; CenturyLink Lake, Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (SP), 2,500; Terry’s Pit, Terrytown, 1,500; Riverside Discovery Center Pond, Scottsbluff, 900

March 15 – Humboldt City Park Lake, 350; Auburn Rotary Club Lake, 800; Stanton Lake, Falls City, 200; Pawnee City Pond, 300; Fort Kearny SRA No. 6, Kearney, 600; Holdrege City Lake, 1,000; Windmill SRA No. 2, Gibbon, 600; Auble Pond, Ord, 750; Ponca SP Pond, 1,500; Such’s Lake, Grand Island, 715; Heartwell Park Lake, Hastings, 495

March 16 (with approximate times) – Holmes Lake, Lincoln, 4,000, 12:30 p.m.; TaHaZouka Park Lake, Norfolk, 1,500, 10 a.m.; Pawnee Park West Lake, Columbus, 1,500, 11:15 a.m.; Neligh Park Pond, West Point, 900, 1 p.m.; Curtis Golf Course Pond, 150, 11 a.m.; Lake Helen, Gothenburg, 2,000, 12:45 p.m.; Plum Creek Park Pond, Lexington, 750, 1:30 p.m.; Oxford City Lake, 150, 3 p.m.

March 19 – Bridgeport SRA northwest lake, 1,400, 11:30 a.m. MT; Morrill north sandpit, 1,350, 12:15 p.m.

Week of March 18 – Niobrara SP Pond, 750

Additional trout stockings, as time and weather permit, are:

March – East Verdigre Creek, Royal, 800; Gracie Creek pond, Burwell, 1,000; Lake Ogallala SRA, 10,000; Morrill middle sandpit, 450; Rock Creek Lake SRA, 1,500

April – East Verdigre Creek, 1,000; Two Rivers SRA No. 5, 10,000; Keller Park SRA No. 4, 250; Keller Park SRA No. 5, Brown County, 400; Steel Creek, Holt County, 200; Sand Springs (Plum Creek Valley Wildlife Management Area pond), Johnstown, 400; Grove Lake sandpit, Royal, 50; Lake Ogallala, 10,000; Gilbert-Baker WMA pond, Harrison, 600; Chadron City Reservoir north pond, 1,700; Chadron SP pond, 500; Chadron City Reservoir south pond, 1,700; Morrill north sandpit, 1,350; Morrill middle sandpit, 450; Riverside Discovery Center Pond, Scottsbluff, 900; Bridgeport SRA northwest lake, 1,400; Terry’s Pit, 1,500; Rock Creek Lake, 1,500; Carter P. Johnson Lake, Fort Robinson SP, 2,500

For more fishing information or to purchase a fishing permit, visit OutdoorNebraska.org.

Schoolyard Bioblitz workshop April 27 at Schramm Education Center

LINCOLN, Neb. – A Schoolyard Bioblitz workshop for formal and informal educators will be held at Schramm Education Center on April 27.

This workshop, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., will inform about citizen science, facilitating Bioblitz events, using iNaturalist in the classroom, and resources available for educators.

A Bioblitz is a collaborative survey of the different species found within a defined area during a certain timeframe. It allows students to practice fieldwork, data collection, and the chance to learn from resource professionals.

The new Schramm Education Center, built on the site of the former Aksarben Aquarium within Schramm Park State Recreation Area in Sarpy County, will open this spring.

The workshop is free, but a valid park entry permit is required. Contact Alie Mayes at alie.mayes@nebraska.gov or 402-471-5631 for more information or to register.

Spring’s arrival brings fresh opportunities to enjoy Mahoney State Park beginning March 1

LINCOLN, Neb. – As spring arrives, celebrate by enjoying fresh opportunities for seasonal fun at Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (SP).

For a more laid-back experience, bring the family to Peter Kiewit Lodge, which offers 40 guest rooms and a great view of the Platte River. Stop by to observe the spring migration, see wildlife feeding near the building and to enjoy an excellent meal at the park’s restaurant, Caddy’s Parkside Grill.

In celebration of spring’s return, the park entry permit requirement will be temporarily waived in March and April for visitors coming to dine at Caddy’s Parkside Grill. Parking spaces are reserved next to Peter Kiewit Lodge for these visitors. Access to all other areas of the park will require a park permit, which can be obtained at the Peter Kiewit Lodge front desk.

Spring events, such as the Platte River Art Show and the Sip Nebraska Wine, Craft Beer & Spirits Festival, invite guests to make memories together and discover a new side to the park. Opening April 11, the Go Ape treetops rope course provides an unforgettable adventure through the park canopy.

For more information about activities at Mahoney SP, visit Outdoornebaska.org. A park entry permit is required for each vehicle entering the park.


March outdoor calendar

LINCOLN, Neb. – The following is a listing of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NGPC) events and important dates in March. Get more event details at Calendar.OutdoorNebraska.gov. Visit OutdoorNebraska.org for a list of hunter education classes and boating safety classes.

March 1 – Hunter Education New Instructor Training, Nebraska Shooters, Firth

March 1-14 – Archery paddlefish permit application period

March 2 – Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshop, YMCA of the Prairie, Holdrege

March 2, 9, 16 – Marsh Madness, Ponca State Park (SP), Ponca

March 4 – Fisheries public informational meeting, South Platte Natural Resources District, Sidney

March 5 – Fisheries public informational meeting, Lake McConaughy Visitor and Water Interpretive Center, Ogallala

March 9 – Western Nebraska National Archery in the Schools Program (NASP) Regional Tournament, D&N Event Center, North Platte

March 9 – Snipe: Reality or Legend, Wildcat Hills Nature Center, Gering

March 10 – Volunteer Youth Fishing Instructor Training, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

March 11 – Hunter Education Instructors Meeting, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

March 11 and 13 – Project WILD/Aquatic WILD Educator Workshop, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

March 14 – Crow hunting season closes

March 15 – Nebraska Game and Parks Commission meeting, Nebraska City

March 21 and 28 – Project WILD/Aquatic WILD Educator Workshop, Nebraska Wesleyan University, Lincoln

March 23 – NASP State Tournament, Speedway Sporting Village, Lincoln

March 23 – Dutch Oven Cooking Demonstration and Tasting, Fort Kearny State Recreation Area (SRA), Kearney

March 24 – Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Rod and Reel Repair and Restringing, Mormon Island SRA, Doniphan

March 25 – Archery spring turkey hunting season opens

March 26 – Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshop, Nebraska Game and Parks Outdoor Education Center, Lincoln

March 26 – Growing Up WILD Educator Workshop, Blair

March 28 – Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshop, Platte River SP, Louisville

March 28 – Learn to Hunt Spring Turkey workshop, Lincoln Park Fire Station, Hastings

March 31 – Trapping seasons close for muskrat and beaver

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